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Surviving Med School on a Budget

You're Not Married to a D.O. ... yet.

By: Hope Steele and Michelle Hall

First of all, congratulations! If you are reading an article about tips for surviving medical school on a budget, odds are you are about to begin or have begun medical school. This is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. So again, congratulations!

Here are our top three financial tips for surviving medical school on a budget:

1. Start Now: Decide Who Is In Control of Your Finances

Whether or not you are a financial guru, you can start now by deciding who controls your finances. The first step is to be realistic about where you stand financially. Most people starting medical school do not have the cash to pay for it out of pocket and finish school debt-free. This means you should not feel bad for taking out loans to pay for medical school. It is completely normal and necessary!

Higher education is an investment; it can be paid back, and it will - by you. So remember, how, when, and where you spend your money should be a decision between you and your significant other. In the end, you two get to work out the debt - so do not compare what your friends are spending or not spending to what you are. Do what is best for you. Begin by setting goals and holding yourself accountable. Check-in often and determine how to better live within your means.

2. Educate Yourself: Take Advantage of Resources to Help You Live Within Your Means

There is a misconception and negative connotation with the word ‘budget’. Budgets are not meant to freak us out or make us feel tied down. It can be, however, a great tool to help us be aware of where our money is going.* (Join the Facebook finance group here to attend the class taught specifically on budgeting).

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” – Dave Ramsey

You will be amazed at how quickly little dollars add up here and there and how quickly you can forget what you have spent. It isn’t the budget that is doing the damage - it is you. :) Sorry to burst that bubble, but there is no one better to thank or blame for our finances than us. Using a budgeting app and other resources (suggested resources are listed at the end of the article) can get you on the right track. Look into resources that best fit your financial goals.

*An excel spreadsheet or the Mint App are great ways to begin setting up your personal budget.

3. Learn to Love ‘Free’

Having fun does not always have to cost money. In most cases, it does not have to cost money at all. ‘Fun’ is all about perspective. Understand why you are choosing to spend little money or no money on activities that fill your time. Someday, you will have the resources to spend more than you can now. Until then, develop self-discipline and know your medical school financial situation can be temporary. In the end, you may learn that having or spending more money does not buy you any more happiness. Happiness comes from finding a purpose and filling your time with people and activities that make you happy - no matter the cost.

Ask yourself: Do I have to spend money to be happy? If the answer is yes, then who is really in control of your finances? Your money or you?

Explore free ways to fill your time, such as parks, outdoor activities, splash pads, picnics, walks, sports, board games, movies, etc. You get the picture. Find ways to love what is free - even if it is just during this time.

You are never in the exact same situation as others even if some of what you do overlaps. Do not feel bad if someone seems to have more money than you or if you seem to have more money than another - we are all working through our unique circumstances and the best tip is to compare yourself to you and only you. Share your goals with friends ahead of time and be respectful of each other.


That being said, do not be afraid to spend money - just be intentional. You would be surprised how much more in control you can feel with your money if you make a conscious effort! For example, if exercise is a priority, and you want that gym pass for after work - go for it! Talk with your significant other about what you want to prioritize and how much you feel comfortable spending. Then, make a plan!

You are capable of finishing medical school and feeling proud of yourself financially. You can survive medical school. You can also thrive through medical school. And we are here to help you thrive.

Thanks for reading!

Hope Steele & Michelle Hall


Here is a list of government programs that provide financial support for low-income individuals.

Here are some additional resources you should consider:

  • MSP (Married, Spouse, and Partnership Support) Groups: Finding friends, groups, and activities that support you in your life goals, including financial goals. Click here for more details.

  • Family Finance Facebook Group - MSP Group: Offers 13 free one-hour classes on basic financial skills, geared towards medical students/families. Click here for more details.

  • Southern Utah Yard Sale: Click here for more details.

  • RVUCOM-SU General Yardsale/Help/Skills/Activities group: Click here for more details.

  • Discounts and Deals Facebook Group - MSP Group. Click here for details.

  • Ksl classifieds (for those who haven’t lived in Utah), this is a lot like Craigslist for people in the surrounding areas who are selling used stuff. From cars, bikes, you name it. Click here for details.

  • Starving Student Card App

    • $30 to sign up to receive discounts/freebies at local shops

  • Ibotta App - free

    • Earn cash back from grocery purchases by scanning receipts

  • Fetch App - free

    • Earn cash back from grocery purchases by scanning receipts

  • Rakuten App - free

    • Use their link at online check outs and earn cash back through certain stores contracted with Rakuten (they mail a check every quarter for your earnings)

  • Follow accounts on social media that help you make the most of your means (for example, FunFreeorCheap/Jordan Page).

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